The fifth annual Inkcarceration Music & Tattoo Festival took place this past July 14th – 16th at the Historic Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, and just as the previous two, it saw a sold-out crowd of 75,000 fans.
The day started off great, with the fans flooding into the parking lot and pre-gaming with their music cranked up loud, starting the weekend off right. Walking into the venue, it was apparent that changes had been made to the layout from 2022. Last year, a double main stage was featured prominently in front of the prison, while this year, all three stages were separated adequately with enough space between them that there would be no sound overlap. Resulting in an overall shift of food and merchandise vendors, giving fans a new layout to traverse throughout the weekend. Once the gates opened, music rang out from the side stages almost simultaneously, with Thousand Below and Bittersweet Revenge opening the day. Vended took to the Inkmates stage early, seeing lead singer Griffin Taylor sporting a freshly shaven head and commanding vocals.
There was something for everyone throughout the day, with We Came As Romans, Hatebreed, A Killer’s Confession, and even Chelsea Grin. Love must have been in the air, proven by Chelsea Grin lead singer Tom Barber when he took the opportunity to propose to his now-fiancée onstage during their performance. Coal Chamber performed for the second time since their reunion to a packed house, who sang along like they never really left—followed by Suicide Silence, Highly Suspect, and P.O.D., giving a whole mix of rock and metal. Headliner support for the evening was Danish rockers Volbeat. Playing through 11 songs, including a rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” as an intro to “Sad Man’s Tongue,” the crowd sang along, surfed, and packed in tighter with every passing moment.
Shortly before 10 pm, the house lights dimmed, and out walked Fred Durst, and D.J. Lethal of Limp Bizkit, backs somewhat to the stage. They looked like stagehands looking over a final setup before Fred turned to the crowd and acted surprised to see us all staring. With a grey afro reaching for the sky, Fred called on the rest of the band to join them and immediately went into “Dad Vibes,” a single from their 2021 album STILL SUCKS. Pulling in covers of bands like Ministry, Rage Against The Machine, and even their infamous heavy version of George Michael’s “Faith,” Limp Bizkit entertained the crowd for over an hour with 12 songs off four of their albums.
With an early warning for the possibility of inclement weather, fans were on high alert in case the call came in, and we had to be evacuated. Set times were adjusted accordingly, with a band dropping off and being replaced immediately. From Ashes To New lit the main stage up, quite literally, with the first pyro of the day and set the tone for what would be a scorcher for fans in the front row. Memphis May Fire & Fire From The Gods played their stages, respectively, to massive crowds, with fans shuffling around the V.I.P. tent to catch each group with a 5-minute break in between. American metalcore band Motionless In White took the stage in the early afternoon and set fire to the air with more pyro than one could track with their eyes. With flames shooting in every direction, it really was amazing to see the 5-piece work the stage while defying death throughout their 9-song set. Ohio natives Mushroomhead played the second stage to an overflowing crowd and were as entertaining as any group could be. With both lead singers jumping into the crowd to surf while performing, water drums splashing everywhere, and even water cannons being blasted all over the crowd, it made for a fantastic performance.
Maria Brink and In This Moment took their hour-long set to play six songs. And, while I love the stage setup and the level of thought that goes into their performances, the crowd wanted more. With most groups getting in 8-10 songs in this time frame, it seemed short for the true fans that fended off people at the rail for 7-ish hours to see them up close. The most talked about group of the weekend, and one we were all told not to miss, was Slaughter To Prevail. The mix of facemasks, growling vocals, and sheer insanity that is lead singer Alex Terrible on stage is a sight to behold. Most of the fans in attendance today were on hand to witness this spectacle. Asking for circle pits, a wall of death, and slamming the microphone of his head so hard he drew blood, Alex made his presence known on the Inked Stage, and while their set might have been short at only 40 minutes, they left a lasting impression on most.
Long-time group Megadeth directly supported headliner Pantera with a 12-song set that touched on 8 of their 16 albums, making their set more of a greatest hits compilation. Pantera took the stage to a screaming crowd and came out swinging hard, not laying up for a moment, with the exception of a tribute to Dimebag and Vinnie with a video memorial played to hit single “Cemetery Gates.” Honorary members guitarist Zakk Wylde, and drummer Charlie Benante, played songs faithful to the original, and while one would normally expect Zakk to be absolutely insane on the guitar, he kept it in line. He paid tribute respectfully, for the most part. He even wore black jeans. I have only EVER seen him in a kilt, so I was caught a bit off guard. The crowd sang along, cried, and moshed their way through the evening in honor of fallen brothers, and as an encore, “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit” came to an end, lead singer Phil Anselmo thanked the crowd once again and dedicated it to the Abbott brothers.
With most of the heavier main stage music behind us, bands like Eva Under Fire, Fame On Fire, and Crown The Empire played on the main stage early today. Groups like Gideon, Dayseeker, and Wage War amping up the afternoon as stragglers worked their way into the festival. It’s incredible what two straight days of heavy music and partying can do to some people! Shock-rocking, blood-spraying heavy metal band GWAR traumatized the crowd as they love to do with decapitations and abortions onstage, covering most of the first half of the crowd in blood. Fans saw Flyleaf reunite with lead singer Lacey Sturm during their 13-song set covering all four studio albums. Gavin Rossdale and Bush played a 9-song set, with the crowd being treated to a special occurrence when Gavin jumped off the stage and ran through the crowd during “Flowers On A Grave.” 10 Years and Pop Evil performed terrific sets on the side stage with Lamb Of God playing direct support for headliner Slipknot today.
After covering Lamb Of God for years and watching the dreadlocks of lead singer Randy Blythe grow out more and more, it really was a culture shock to see him shaved-headed and still headbanging. With or without dreadlocks, Randy leaves it all on stage when he performs. Over their 11-song set, he was running back and forth, jumping off everything in sight, all while dodging 6-foot pyro. What would be a dangerous sport for anyone, Randy makes it look like child’s play. Now, you can always tell when Slipknot is on deck; maggots wearing full gear, masks, jumpsuits, and all for the entire day, and don’t waver, no matter how hot the sun gets. The undying dedication and unwavering support for the Iowa 9 never ceases to amaze me. They pack a crowd in, and almost every time, pandemonium ensues. From the minute the first note hits and the curtain drops, all hell breaks loose! Things are tossed into the air, the crowd gets rougher, there are more surfers, and security earns every penny for the hour and a half that Slipknot is onstage. Then, just as quickly as it began, it was all over. Three days of music closed out by one of the biggest heavy metal groups on the planet.
Highlight of the Weekend – Traverse The Abyss
A backstory. For journalists attending the festival, there is almost always an area for us to congregate between bands, recharge our gear, or sit and relax for a few moments. At Inkcarceration this year, our area was also a hangout for artists. On Saturday, I was enjoying a coffee and a well-deserved break when someone approached me and asked for a photo. We, ironically, were both wearing the Born Of Osiris “Boo Crew” shirt, and he thought it was funny and wanted to post it on socials. I agreed, and after the photo, we got to talking. He was the guitarist in a band out of Scranton, PA, named Traverse The Abyss. Mike (the lead guitarist) and the band’s lead singer Eric were both in the media area for three days working the crowd as they say, and we chatted off and on until their set time on Sunday afternoon. There were about 7 or 8 photographers onsite that were accredited with a photo pass to shoot, and not one of us that I can think of had been to the third and smallest stage nestled in a tight corner next to the prison and merchandise area to this point, but we promised we’d show up. While walking over to the Reformatory Stage, we chatted about exit strategies in case there was no reason to stay and joked about what we were getting ourselves into. We were thinking more about their set being a total disaster and us having to fake our way through it. Well, they absolutely slayed. This 6-piece band, who hail from the land of Motionless In White, and The Office, blew our minds.
They pulled a massive crowd on a stage that wasn’t meant to fit many! With only two security guards, they had more crowd surfers than could be handled. Both lead singer Eric Abyss and bassist Nick Cotillo jumped into the crowd and performed while a circle pit raged around them. It would be a lie to say their 30-minute set was anything less than sheer chaos. They worked the crowd, the media, and anyone else who would listen and literally put their talent where their mouth was. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will; so get onboard now and give them a listen. And, if you’re lucky enough to be going to Louder Than Life in Louisville, Kentucky, put them into your schedule because they won the opportunity to play live there as well.
With another year ending and the festival scene in Mansfield, Ohio, growing larger and larger every year, it’s anyone’s guess where they go from here. The infrastructure at the Reformatory can handle the crowd, but the hotels in the surrounding cities almost can’t. They were bursting at the seams as the sudden influx of 25,000 people converged on them. I can’t wait to see what next year brings! Keep checking Metal Insider for announcements as they happen, and for all things Inkcarceration, visit their official website here.